The Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) released the first-of-its-kind statewide assessment of problem gambling in Illinois on June 16.
Commissioned by IDHS and conducted by researchers at Health Resources in Action (HRIA), the assessment reports on the prevalence of different types of gambling in the state, the availability of treatment and other services, the prevalence of problem gambling among different groups, and overall attitudes about gambling.
IDHS release stated the department is committed to expanding services and continuing to raise awareness about recovery options available through the website WeKnowTheFeeling.org, 1-800-GAMBLER, or by texting “ILGamb” to 53342.
The study found that 68 percent of adult Illinoisans reported gambling in the past year, with the state lottery being the most popular form. Following legalization and expansion, gambling at video gaming terminals and online sports betting showed significant growth over time.
While most adults engage in responsible gambling behaviors, some experience significant impact on their economic, social, and mental well-being, developing problem gambling and gambling disorder.
Statewide, the assessment found:
- 3.8 percent of adult Illinoisans — approximately 383,000 people — are considered to have a gambling problem
- An additional 7.7 percent — approximately 761,000 people — are at risk for developing a gambling problem
“It is so important that we have data on the patterns and depth of gambling across the state. I hope this report will be used to advance and expand effective treatment and recovery options for people experiencing problem gambling disorder throughout Illinois,” said IDHS Secretary Grace B. Hou. “For those who do struggle with gambling disorder, they seldom seek help and often hide their behavior from family members.”
As the number of individuals in need of gambling treatment services continues to rise, IDHS has made significant investments in gambling services, including $10 million budgeted for State Fiscal Year 2023.
“We hope that the findings of this assessment will provide much needed information for people working on prevention and treatment of problem gambling in Illinois, which will help them make data-informed decisions on how best to assist individuals on their road to recovery,” said Dr. Hannah Carliner, of Health Resources in Action, lead author of the study. “The broad scope of this assessment also enables it to be used as a baseline measure for future assessments to track changes over time regarding prevalence of gambling and problem gambling, and availability and use of services,” she said.
The assessment was ordered in response to legislation that expanded access to gambling across the state. The 250-page report includes 10 recommended strategies the state and partners can take to address problem gambling amidst this expansion. These include providing consistent funding toward problem gambling prevention and services, increasing awareness about problem gambling and its symptoms, and improving access to holistic treatment for problem gambling.
“These recommendations are based on the needs of Illinoisans identified through this assessment and informed by best practices from other states to provide a strategic initiative for the future of gambling disorder recovery and prevention in Illinois,” said Laura Garcia, director of the Division of Substance Use Prevention and Recovery (SUPR) at IDHS. “We are using these findings to develop strategies to increase awareness about problem gambling; support responsible gambling; and expand prevention, treatment, and recovery services throughout the state,” she said.
IDHS continues to work with gambling providers to expand outreach and awareness of the problems that gambling can cause, and to connect impacted people with the services that support recovery. IDHS, through SUPR, has funded 26 gambling treatment programs through SFY2022. Twenty-one of them provide outpatient treatment and outreach services to the communities they serve.